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Questions to Ask Your Clients

  |  November 6, 2012   |  Comments

Media planning doesn't involve traditional sales, but you must get clients to buy into your recommendations. Here are 60 questions to begin with.

Asking the right questions is often as important as giving the right answers.

Asking the right questions not only arms you with the information you need as an agency to create a successful social media marketing strategy and media plan, it gets the client thinking along the same lines as you. It helps them to look at success in the same way you do and aligns your priorities.

So in this week's column, I thought I would relist some of my favorite questions we ask when we are pitching or on-boarding a new client for media planning and social media marketing. Of course, many of the questions can be applied to any agency service.

Some of these questions seem obvious. But the reality is that many of these questions are never asked - we often assume that we already know the answers. Also, if you are on the client side, these are questions you should be asking yourself and using to prepare agency briefs. (Please know that I am 100 percent sure I am leaving many questions out, so email me any you think I should have listed and maybe I'll put them in a future column - of course I will make sure to give you credit!)


1. What qualities and behaviors do you want to see in your agency team?

2. What qualities and behaviors do you not want to see?

3. What is not working about your current vendor relationship or in-house solution?

4. What are common mistakes and misconceptions agencies make or have about your business and brand?

5. Do you have a wish list of initiatives that are not part of this program but you would like to see come to fruition in the future?

6. How do you measure the quality of your agency relationships?

7. What are things you would like to see your agency take more responsibility for or go over and above the call of duty on?

8. What is the most often you can meet with us for status and planning meetings?

9. Do all the people in your company who need to know what we are doing understand what we are doing?

10. Are there any training or informational seminars you would like us to give to different groups in your company (online media, search marketing, social media marketing, etc.)?


11. What are your metrics for success? CPM, CTR, CPC, CPL, CPA, ROI, page views, engagement time, brand recognition?

12. How about for social? Fans, followers, chatter, shares, social site traffic/leads/revenue, etc.?

13. What is the most important action on your site? What is the least important action on your site?

14. What will make this campaign successful in your eyes? How about in your bosses' eyes? How about in your sales team's eyes?

15. Do you have any historical or current benchmarks for these metrics we can trend against? (Often, for example, a client is at a $50 cost per action and they are hiring you to get it to $25.)

16. Can you elaborate on things you have tried in the past? What worked well and why do you think it succeeded? What didn't work and why do you think it failed?

17. What is your average margin on a sale or what is your average cost of goods sold? What are the expenses that go into the cost of goods sold?

Tracking and Reporting

18. How do you currently measure ROI?

19. What tracking systems and social reporting systems are you using now?

20. Are you able to trace offline actions and sales (call center, retail, post-lead conversion) to online investments? If so, how?

21. Are there any security compliance regulations we should know about that will make it hard to get our tracking code onto your site? If there are, who should we start talking to now?

22. Are there any in-house reports or dashboards you will want our data integrated into? If so, can we see them so we can deliver data to you in the right format?

23. What can we provide you to help express your success within your company and promote the good work that you do?


24. What media properties do you know you want to be in? Why?

25. What properties do you know you do not want to be in? Why?

26. What are your geographical constraints?

27. Are you asking for online value added placements with your offline media buys?

28. Do you have any proposals from media reps that contacted you directly?

29. Do you want to have a media day to meet with the reps of the larger properties we are buying on?


30. Why would anyone want to be your friend? Why would they want to connect with you, listen to you, and share what you have to say?

31. What fears, compliance issues, and workflow issues are holding you back from doing more social media marketing?

32. Do you have a companion steady state social advertising budget?

33. What social properties do you have up and running?

34. How do you handle naming conventions, URL conventions, and management for various brands and regions throughout the world in order to avoid clutter?

35. How do you encourage your employees to produce great content that expresses your company's expertise, good corporate citizenship, and human side?

36. When you produce content, where do you centralize and archive it?

37. What are the internal and external sources of content around your industry? Staff experts, industry experts, blogs, media, government agencies, etc.?

38. Who is managing social now?

39. Can you describe your workflow and approval process related to your social publishing?

40. Do you have an internal training and policy on how employees talk about the company and brand on their social platforms?

41. How do you handle password management for all your social properties?

42. How do tweets, status updates, and other posts get created and approved?

43. Do you know what types of posts and content spark high levels of user engagement?

44. Do you have standard operating procedures and rapid response legal/customer service resources for moderation?

45. What are some of the bad things people might say about your product or brand and how do you address those issues in the real world?

46. How are you measuring success in social media now?


47. Who are your target customers broken down by product?

48. Do they have any seasonal or geographic buying patterns?

49. Please provide all the customer analysis data you can to us?

50. Who are your best customers and what do they have in common?

51. Who are your average customers?

52. Who are your worst customers?

53. What are common mistakes and misconceptions consumers make or have about your business, products, and brand?


54. What are all the benefits of your products broken down by product and target audience? How do you help people?

55. What are all the offers you can realistically make to your different audiences broken down by audience and product? What can we give them right now?

56. What has worked and not worked in the past for a benefit and offer messaging standpoint?

57. Can we see all the creative (banners, search ads, email, and landing pages) you have ran in the last couple years? Do you have the results for these various executions?

58. Can we talk to your sales people about what closes a deal? Can we hear a pitch from your top sales person?

59. Do you mind if we secret shop your competitors and hear their pitch?

60. What makes you different from your competitors? Why are you better? Why was your product developed?

Now it is important to note that you do not need to ask your client this whole list of questions or give them a questionnaire to complete before you meet them. The last thing you want to do is give clients homework.

This is a list for you to complete gradually over the course of several conversations, emails, and meetings. However, once it is completed it is nice to send them all the questions you have asked them and what their answers were - just for "clarification" of course. They will love this document, guaranteed!

Questions image on home page via Shutterstock.


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Harry Gold

As founder and CEO of Overdrive, Harry Gold is the architect and conductor behind the company's ROI-driven programs. His primary mission is to create innovative marketing programs based on real-world success and to ensure the marketing and technology practices that drive those successes are continually institutionalized into the culture and methods of the agency. What excites him is the knowledge that Overdrive's collaborative environment has created a company of online media, SEM, and online behavioral experts who drive success for the clients and companies they serve. Overdrive serves a diverse base of B2B and B2C clients that demand a high level of accountability and ROI from their online programs and campaigns.

Harry started his career in 1995 when he founded online marketing firm Interactive Promotions, serving such clients as Microsoft, "The Financial Times," the Hard Rock Cafe, and the City of Boston. Since then, he has been at the forefront of online branding and channel creation, developing successful Web and search engine-based marketing programs for various agencies and Fortune 500 companies.

Harry is a frequent lecturer on SEM and online media for The New England Direct Marketing Association; Ad Club; the University of Massachusetts, Boston; Harvard University; and Boston University.

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